Converting to Judaism

The Oys and Joys of Choosing A Jewish Life

Leading Friday Night Services!

on July 21, 2014

I’m happy to announce that Friday night I successfully co-led my first Shabbat service! I am thrilled that the rabbi at Temple Beth Israel gave me this opportunity and happy that David agreed to not only lead the service with me, but also patiently went through each prayer and taught me whatever I didn’t know.

Despite my preparation, punctuality, and the small turnout, I was pretty nervous. I felt distant as I watched people file in from my little carpeted step. When I looked out from the bima, I felt like everyone was counting on me, relying on my voice to guide them through the prayer book and through some kind of spiritual forest.

Mostly, I focused on getting the words right, and I was almost too caught up in leading the service to actually enjoy it myself. The balance between leading and personal spiritual fulfillment will come with practice and time, as I know from previous performance and religious experience. I was a cantor at my church for 6 years, and it took me about a year before I could feel comfortable and truly pray without feeling like I was just going through motions.

However, there was a moment where I felt truly connected to everyone, to G-d, and to what I was doing. When we went through the service beforehand, David and I could not agree on which tune to use for the Barechu. We decided that I would sing the first line myself, and then David would come in with the congregation at the second line. As I stood before the ark, everything just fell into place. My voice came out strong and confident, the words resonated with truth, and I felt as though I was conveying a message older and greater than myself. It just sounded right. It also sounded very Jewish, if that makes sense. Maybe because the tune was traditional, the Torah was staring me in the face, or everything flowed in a wonderful way. I liked it. A lot.

I’ve always liked being up close to the Torah. The last time I prayed up in front was at EMJC during Rosh Hashanah when my friend and I were invited up to open and close the ark. I remember thinking from my seat that when the rabbi and cantor turned their backs to everyone and faced the ark, it was rude. But being up there myself, it felt intimate and beautiful.

After the service, I was shocked to learn it had lasted only half an hour! I try to think how long it actually felt… and it’s almost as if time didn’t exist while I was up there. David and I got lots of positive feedback, and all of the congragants really appreciated our efforts. It felt good to be appreciated, but even better to know I was capable of doing something that is so important to me.

Fingers crossed that this is my first of many more to come!

In other exciting news this week, I’ve officially registered for the Introduction Judaism course at EMJC. First class starts Sept. 9!!

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5 responses to “Leading Friday Night Services!

  1. yosefb says:

    Yasher Koach!! What a blessing! You are being a light.

  2. Scott Sewell says:

    Congratulations on your service!

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